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This is the third in a series of tasting reports, these 40 wines tasted on March 26th at Châteaux La Couspaude in St-Emilion, and Gazin in Pomerol. It will be very intersting to see what the rest of the world's wine media makes of the 20 St-Emilions on show here. I tasted the first few and thought it was simply a bit of palate-shock (given that it was barely 10:00am) that was making the wines taste so dry and inky, with the fruit submerged and compacted beneath a lid of mouth-puckering tannins. However, as I tasted through the wines I found this pattern pretty consistent, and it was a relief to come across the occasional wine that showed a chink of light in its character.
I found tasting the St-Emilions pretty hard work - though I am quite used to tasting similar wines at this stage. I concluded that there was a tendency for the wines of St-Emilion to be over-extracted in this vintage. For whatever reason, I felt that too aggressive an approach to the winemaking had extracted too much pigment and tannins from the skins in too many cases. There is good fruit in most of these wines, and with a lot of work it is possible to discern that there is a lot going on beneath the extract, but only time will tell if these really are balanced wines that will mature into elegant, "classic" Bordeaux. On looking back I scored them quite highly. I always try to be objective in scoring, and these are without doubt impressive of a certain style. The question is, whether that style will suit your expectations of fine Bordeaux.
In Pomerol the picture was much happier for me. Some might argue these are not such immediately impressive wines in terms of "build-quality", and the superstars of Le Pin, Petrus, etc. were not on show, but other fine wines like L'Evangile, Petit Village and Gazin showed that depth and structure can be obtained whilst retaining a sense of lightness, elegance and approachability.
Château Dassault, Grand Cru Classé
Sweet vanilla-slicked cassis and cream. Quite flashy, but a little more openness and good purity of fruit. Big savoury tannins and acidity, but a lovely underpinning by quality black plum fruit. Very nice. 18/20.
Château Fonpléglade, Grand Cru Classé
More modest nose on this - not quite so dense. Good quality of fruit, but a gear down from previous wines in terms of concentration and purity of fruit quality. Supple and cherryish palate. 16/20.
Château Clos Fourtet, Grand Cru Classé
Very tight on the nose. Very hard to get into this wine. Concentrated on the palate and has a lot of grip, but tough to make a judgement. 16?/20.
Château Franc-Mayne, Grand Cru Classé
A little suggestion of violet and ripe cherry sweetness. Deep, ripe fruit behind. On the palate there is more of that sweet fruit quality evident, and nice tangy quality. Good balance and an attractive, modern style. 17/20.
Château Grand-Mayne, Grand Cru Classé
Quite a powerful, savoury nose with earthy qualities and plenty of intense, deep, rich fruit. There's a lovely quality of fruit here, with a plate that is really sweet and rich, with fine concentration, flesh and balance. 18-19/20.Quite an open, charcoally
Château La Couspaude, Grand Cru Classé
Quite a charcoally note here, and already toasty with a big plum and damson core that continues onto the palate. Very juicy and supple. Generous fruit here, and an up-front style, though plenty of grip. 17-18/20.
Château La Gaffelière, Premier Grand Cru Classé
Earth and mineral qualities give a lovely cut to solid balck fruit. Oak has already affed a nice tobacco and toast note. The palate is powerful and dense, with lots of thick, sweet fruit and a chocolaty note. Rich and long. 18/20.
Château La Tour Figeac, Grand Cru Classé
There's a cherry-skin, fragrant nose here, with a touch of sweet floral perfume. Good crunchy black fruit on the palate, and a touch of blueberry. There's a relly bitter plum-skin, tannic edge that is a touch too dry. 16-17/20.
Château Larcis-Ducasse, Grand Cru Classé
Quite an open, berryish quality on the nose, with more of a red fruit quality. But then the palate lacks depth, with a touch of hollowness and modest fruit. Quite nice in a lighter style, and decent early drinking if cheap enough. 15/20.
Château Larmande, Grand Cru Classé
Mineral and charcoally edge to black cherry fruit. Nice toffeed undertone. Very concentrated palate with fine, rough, plummy texture and weight. Plenty of spice and concentration, but balanced and good length. 17-18/20.
Nice leafy, earthy quality here, backed up by firm blackcurrant. A great chewy weight of fruit on the palate, with high extraction and lots of lummy, damsony depth, but a definite lush quality. Long and opulent. 18/20.
Château La Cabanne
Toffe and sweet fudge on the nose, with toasty aromas and a note of sweet, floral fruitiness. Th epalate has very dark plum and bittersweet chocolaty fruit. Lots of rough, grippy black fruit and tannin. Bold and good. 18/20.
Château La Conseillante
Tight, submerged, deeply-seated sweet black fruit. Dark, chocolaty and dense. High extraction of bittersweet black fruit, that is sinewy and chewy, with undoubted concentration but a hint of toughness about it. Should come good. 17-18/20.
Château La Croix de Gay
More light here, with red fruit character and sweet, fudge-like oak, summer berries and good ripeness. There's a sense of finesse on the nose. The palate has plenty of grip and concentration, but there's that extra dimension of sweet fruit and balance. 18/20.
Château La Pointe
Charcoally nose; a hint of minerality and a background of toast. Good, ripe blackurranty fruit. This is muscular in style, brawny palate with sinewy, meaty fruit and clamped by solid tannins. Good quality of fruit and plenty of structure, but maybe just a touch foursquare? 17/20.
Fine depth here, even notes of complexity with a suggestion of cedar, vanilla, flowers, sweet plums and a glossy blackcurrant core. Th epalate id concentrated but very fine. There is a weight of silky, black sweet fruit; fruit compote and cassis. Long and structured, this is excellent. 19/20.